Max Verstappen held off defending world champion Lewis Hamilton as well as Lando Norris to cross the finish line first at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the second race of the 2021 Formula One season held at Imola on 18th April.
Lining up on the grid at 3rd position behind Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez, Verstappen was able to take first place right in the first lap of the race after a light collision with the Mercedes driver, which also allowed Perez to get to 2nd place. Nicholas Latifi for Williams crashed out of the race in the first lap.
Max Verstappen led throughout the race to finish with a 22-second lead
As the race progressed, Hamilton was able to close in on Verstappen and after the latter went to the pits in lap 28, the Briton was able to take the lead, albeit for a short while as in the next lap, Hamilton had to visit the pits as well and the Dutchman, with fresh tires, regained his place ahead.
Unfortunately in lap 31, when Hamilton was just 2.5 seconds behind Verstappen, went off the track and crashed. He did manage to get back to the track but a pit stop was necessary and costed him to lose more time.
In the next lap, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was taken out by Williams’ George Russell, who had hit the grass and went head-on into the Mercedes driver, causing both to crash out of the race. Perez, who was engaged with Leclerc for the 3rd place, spun off in lap 38 and went down to 14th place.
Hamilton reached third place by the 55th lap and five laps later, beat Norris to get back to second and clocked the fastest lap at Imola in the 61st lap. However, just two more laps were to go and the British driver was still a whopping 21 seconds behind Verstappen, the Dutchman who flew across the finish line to mark his first win in Italy.
Following Hamilton in P2, Norris finished third, while the Ferrari duo Leclerc and Sainz came in at 4th and 5th place respectively.
“It was very hard to stay on track to be honest!” Verstappen said after the race, “I had a little moment with my restart! But everything else went really well today.”
Congratulating both Verstappen as well as Norris, Hamilton admitted his mistake, “On my side it was not the greatest of days – first time I made a mistake in a long time, but I’m grateful to have been able to bring the car home today.”